My PBP Bike: The Wheels

When I asked which part of my bike for last summer’s Paris-Brest-Paris our readers wanted to hear more about, the answer was: “Everything.” So I’m writing a series of posts about the parts of the bike. I’ve already talked about the frame and the centerpull brakes. Today let’s look at the wheels.

When thinking about the wheels for my new bike, I started with the tires I wanted to run, since everything follows from that. It was tempting to go with a really huge tire, like our 54 mm Rat Trap Pass. Our testing indicates that they don’t roll any slower, but there are other compromises when your tires get wider than about 44 mm. It’s harder to fit a rim brake around them. Fenders with good coverage start interfering with the chain. Really wide tires can be more sensitive to tire pressure, and their huge supple sidewalls tend to get deflected more on road cambers.

For a bike that gets ridden mostly on pavement, over huge distances and often at night, 42-44 mm-wide tires seem like the perfect compromise. From that followed that my new bike would have 650B wheels. Why not 700C? I like a nimble feel to my bike – not quite as eager to turn as a racing bike, but almost. Wider tires inevitably are heavier, so it makes sense to reduce the wheel size to keep the rotational inertia the same. With 700C x 42 mm tires, unless you mount them on superlight and super-expensive carbon rims, the bike tends to be too stable for my taste. It becomes too hard to change my line in mid-corner, for example, in a decreasing-radius turn or if a pothole suddenly appears in my path. Conversely, 26″ wheels will not hold their line in corners as well as I’d like.

The old myth that 700C wheels roll faster also has been disproven many times now. Whether it’s pavement or gravel, small variations in wheel size don’t affect how fast a wheel rolls. All that makes 650B the Goldilocks wheel size for 42 mm tires – just right.

Next I had to select my hubs. On the front, the choice was easy: The SON generator hubs have proven themselves over millions of miles. They have a clever pressure compensation system that keeps moisture out of the bearings – the main cause for the premature demise of lesser generator hubs. The Delux model has the least resistance of all generator hubs, and the Wide-Body puts the flanges as far outward as possible. That results in a stronger wheel, allowing me to use fewer and thinner spokes without getting too much deflection when I climb out of the saddle. I’ve found that 28 spokes are plenty on a rim brake front wheel (which has zero dish), as long as you run wide tires that cushion the blows on the wheel.

For the rear hub, I would have liked to use a modern hub, but I haven’t found one that I like. The hub bearings on my Firefly are rough after just 4,000 km (2,500 miles). Another popular brand on a test bike had the tiny 2.5 mm Allen that holds the bearing adjustment come loose – apparently a common issue. I know many riders have good experiences with these and other hubs, but I went with what has been working well for me on many bikes. I didn’t choose Maxi-Car hubs because they are ‘retro’ or ‘classic,’ but because they’ve been working so well for me.

Maxi-Car hubs go for decades without needing overhauls or adjustment. The bearings are protected by double labyrinth seals, so the grease doesn’t get contaminated. The axles are oversized, so they don’t break. The bad part is that they aren’t made any more, and they’re only available for freewheels. Fortunately, I was able to find a brand-new 13-26 Dura-Ace 7-speed freewheel to go with my hub, giving me plenty of gears.

I chose a 36-hole hub because only that model has keyhole spokeholes on the drive side. It’s a brilliant feature, allowing spoke replacement without pulling the freewheel/cassette. If a spoke breaks, you unscrew the old spoke, hook the head of the new spoke into the keyhole, and screw on the nipple. Replacing a spoke on the road takes less than 3 minutes. Admittedly, that’s less of an advantage these days, as spokes rarely break when you run wide tires that cushion the blows on the wheel, but still… Another nice feature: The spokes on both sides are the same length – if you look carefully, you can see that the keyholes don’t space the spokes evenly, but in a way that they are a tad longer than they’d usually be – making them the same length as on the non-drive side. Not having to carry two different spoke lengths is nice…

Thirty-six spokes is a lot – 32 would be sufficient. But there’s no real disadvantage to those extra four spokes: The rear wheel is in turbulent air anyhow, so the aerodynamics aren’t a big deal. And with less load on each spoke, I can use aluminum nipples, which more than makes up for the weight of the extra spokes.

Speaking of spokes, I used Sapim Laser spokes. These beauties are butted with 2.0 mm ends and super-thin 1.5 mm center sections. That means they stretch more, so they are less likely to go slack when I hit a bump, which can loosen a spoke and also fatigues them prematurely. Spokes are a perfect example where less material makes them last longer. At the ends, where spokes tend to break if they do, the Lasers measure a 2.0 mm, making them strong. And the 1.5 mm center sections also make the wheel more aerodynamic and less affected by cross-winds. Of course, they are little lighter, too. The only downside is that ultra-thin spokes tend to wind up more when you build the wheel. It’s not difficult to compensate for that: You turn the nipple a little further and then back off to unwind the spoke. You can feel how far the spoke has wound up – it’s very smooth since nothing is turning – and you stop backing off when you feel the spoke turning in the nipple.

Compared to the spokes I used in the past, Sapim spokes are super-nice. The butted ends are short, because they are made specially for each length, so you get the fullest advantage of the butting. The heads are perfectly formed, so these spokes are less likely to break. I never thought I’d get excited about spokes…

In the past, finding spokes in the right lengths required many phone calls, because no local shop has all lengths in stock. Rene Herse Cycles now stocks the spokes you need to build wheels with the generator hubs and rims we sell. I was lucky – one of the sizes we stock also works for my rear wheel.

For the rims, I chose Pacenti’s Brevet model. It’s the first ‘modern classic’ rim that isn’t suffering from cracking and/or overly deep wells.

I was also tempted by the HED Belgium Plus – they are a little lighter and maybe more aero – but they don’t come with 36 holes for my rear wheel. It’s nice to have two great 650B rim options.

I run Rene Herse Extralight tires on all my bikes for their speed and comfort. I inflate my Babyshoe Pass 650B x 42s to about 35 psi (2.4 bar) for paved rides. For rough gravel, I drop the pressure down into the mid-20s (1.7 bar). I usually run tubes – Schwalbe’s SV14A are superlight, hold their pressure for a long time, and have zero issues with splitting sidewalls, poorly vulcanized valves and other issues that can affect budget tubes.

So far, I’m totally happy with my choice of wheels. I haven’t had to touch them yet: They’ve remained true after many hard rides on pavement and gravel, and the tires haven’t had a flat yet. (Touch wood!) And every time I tackle a fast corner with a decreasing radius, the bike adjusts its line with ease, while the wide tires grip tenaciously. It brings a smile on my face.

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Where to go from here?

The first half of 2020 has brought unexpected changes in many ways. When Covid-19 spread so suddenly around the world, there was little time to figure out how to deal with this. We stopped everything that was non-essential, we socially distanced, we discovered face masks, and we talked about contact tracing. Just as we were reassessing what is essential and what isn’t, the murder of George Floyd made us realize that systemic racism remains a problem that needs to be addressed.

As we head into the second half of 2020, we are facing a lot of uncertainty. The virus has not been vanquished, and racism won’t stop overnight, either. Thinking about the future can be discouraging, but there’s always hope. We have to stop pretending that all will be fine, and start addressing the issues we are facing. At the same time, we must find a way to live our lives – as much as possible – with the new realities. In other words, we need to pivot from stopping everything that is non-essential to figuring out what we can do safely. Continue Reading →

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Longing for the Mountains: Giovanni’s Covid-19 Experience (Italy)

In this series, we’re sharing the Covid-19 experiences of friends and contributors from around the world. Giovanni Calcagno won our photo contest two years ago with this photo, taken during his ride on the Via del Sale that criss-crosses the Italian-French border. Here is his experience during the Covid-19 lockdown in Italy.
– Natsuko

Tell us about yourself and where you live.

I’m 59 and live in Arenzano, a town of 12,500 people (rising to 40,000 during the summer months) near Genova on the northwestern coast of Italy. I work as a fisherman, catching swordfish with my brother. We come from a family that has been fishing for four generations. Continue Reading →

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People who inspire us: Sofiane Sehili

There are few photos of Sofiane Sehili in full flight, because he’s usually ahead of the photographers… Working as a bike messenger in Paris, Sofiane first dipped his toes into ultra-cycling in 2016, when he rode in the epic Tour Divide, the race that runs along the crest of the Rocky Mountains from Canada to the Mexican border. He came 3rd in this first attempt.

Last year, he started to race more seriously, and he won the Italy Divide, tied with another ultra legend, James Hayden. Then Sofiane led the Tour Divide for a whole week before snow wreaked havoc on the race. Sofiane climbed a 10,000 ft (3000 m) pass in the middle of the night, before turning around after realizing that conditions were too dangerous. He finished the season by winning the Inca Divide, a 1700 km epic through the Andes of Peru.

His success story continues this year: In February, he won the Atlas Mountain Race in Morocco against a very strong international field. And just 10 days ago, he came second in the Hope 1000 that criss-crosses the Swiss Alps. The photo above was taken just before the start of that race…

Sofiane has brought a randonneur’s approach to mountain biking. He’s surprised everybody by riding through the nights and stopping only rarely to sleep, thus opening up gaps on his competitors that become almost unsurmountable. I asked him about the appeal of riding that far and fast, and he simply said: “What attracts me to long distance is both the will to see how far I can push and the fact that I really feel at home on the bike. When cycling, I don’t want to stop because I never seem to have enough. There’s is nothing I’d rather do. Just being there, outside, completely free, it makes me feel complete.”

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How to Choose Your Rene Herse Tires

Choosing Rene Herse tires for your bike is easy, because our program is logical and simple. It’s all based on performance. We started making tires because we wanted to ride high-performance tires on the gravel roads of the Cascade Mountains. We came from a decade of racing on hand-made tubulars on the road and in cyclocross, and we wanted the same feel and performance in wide clinchers for our adventures.

Back then, wide tires existed, but they were heavy touring tires. When you come from 240 g tubulars, it’s hard to fall in love with 600+ g tires! It wasn’t just the weight, the thick casings and heavy rubber coatings made these tires sluggish and slow. So we decided to make our own tires. We started out with the most supple high-performance tires and developed them into wide tires that are strong enough for everyday use. Continue Reading →

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Raymond Henry, 1944-2020

With great sadness, we say Goodbye to Raymond Henry, cycling historian extraordinaire, grand randonneur, and wonderful friend. He passed away today from the complications of a surgery that was to allow him resume his active life of cycling, woodworking and gardening.

Raymond experienced the glory days of French cyclotouring first-hand. As a teenager, he saved all his money and rode his bike to Grenoble to order a custom randonneuse from the great Jo Routens. He rode that bike (and a similar one that he bought used, shown above) all his life.

And ride he did: He completed Paris-Brest-Paris, the Tour de France Randonneur, and all nine Diagonales of France – the famous randonnées that connect the corners of hexagon-shaped France. He rode the Raid Pyrénéen – twice – and completed the Brevet des Provinces Françaises, which had him visit 6 important sites in every one of the 90 départements of France. This last project took Raymond 20 summers. He rode 27,000 km (16,800 miles) in the process – and he enjoyed almost every single one of them! Living at the foot of Mont Ventoux, he climbed the ‘Giant of Provence’ several times a year. Continue Reading →

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New Saddles and Bags and Bottles

In the middle of a global pandemic, delays in shipments from suppliers are not a big concern with everything else that is going on. And yet we’re happy that the situation has improved to the point where deliveries are arriving again – because this means that things are getting better for our suppliers, who are also our friends.

Over the winter, we’ve worked with Berthoud Cycles in France to design a new, bigger handlebar bag, the GB 31. It’s useful for tall riders and those who like their handlebars high – the bag spans the distance from the bars to the front rack, so it’s sized to fit your bike. We’ve not just increased the height of the bag; we’ve also adjusted the size of the pockets: a bit larger so they are proportionate with the bag, but not so large that it becomes difficult to retrieve their contents.

You can see the new GB31 in the photo above, together with the three existing models. All Berthoud bags are available in the classic blue-gray (shown) and in black with leather trim, or in all-black versions. We offer them with and without side pockets. They all include a shoulder strap for easy carrying when you’re off the bike. They’re waterproof, because the cotton fabric swells when it gets wet, and they last almost forever. I’ve used my current Berthoud bag for 9 years, 2 Paris-Brest-Paris, many wet winter rides, countless tours… and it’s still as good as new. Continue Reading →

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Tubeless Tire FAQ

Car and motorcycle tires have been tubeless for decades, but bicycle tires have continued to use tubes. That changed during the 2010s, when first mountain bikers and then the riders of all-road and gravel bikes started to experiment with tubeless technology. They reason was simple: If you could run your tires tubeless, you’d be able to ride lower pressures and not worry about pinch flats even in very rough terrain. An added advantage of tubeless is indirect: The sealant required to make the tires airtight on the rim also seals small punctures, so flats can be much less frequent with tubeless tires.

At first, tubeless bicycle tires were very much hit-or-miss: classic rims were converted to tubeless installations, but on seemingly every other ride, the tires burped or mysteriously went flat. Those problems are behind us, and tubeless technology is maturing. These days, many riders run their tires tubeless without problems.

Most Rene Herse tires are tubeless-compatible, giving you a choice of running them with tubes or tubeless. Running supple bicycle tires tubeless is a relatively new technology, and our understanding keeps evolving. When we built the tire FAQ on our web site, we talked to customers, bike shops and racers to identify the most common questions about tubeless tires: Continue Reading →

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Summer 2020 Bicycle Quarterly

The Summer 2020 Bicycle Quarterly is at the printer. It’ll be mailed at the end of the month, but we just learned that due to staffing shortages at our printer, we need to complete the mailing list tomorrow morning (Thursday). To get your copy with the first mailing, please make sure your subscription is up to date. If it has expired, you will get a renewal notice. If you want to subscribe, please do so today.

And you will want to get this exciting edition without delay! On the cover is the incredible workshop of Fern Bicycles in Berlin, one of the most innovative builders today. We take you into the shop and tell you the story behind their amazing bikes. Continue Reading →

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DIY Gravel: Ted King’s Epic Cross-Vermont Ride

Ted King’s DIY Gravel may have been born out of necessity – there are no gravel races right now, so why not ride our own rides and challenges in the mean time? Ted’s idea has been a lot of fun, and more than a thousand riders have risen to the challenge.

A few weeks ago would have been Dirty Kanza, the biggest and most prestigious of the gravel racing calendar. Ted King used the opportunity ride across the entire State of Vermont on backroads: 312 miles (500 km) and more than 32,000 ft (9700 m) of climbing. His team made a great video about his ride. I was struck by how the emotions of Ted adventure remind me of the great randonneuring challenges, like the Raid Pyrénéen or Paris-Brest-Paris. It’s neat to see how racing, cyclotouring and randonneuring all come together in this epic adventure. Enjoy the video!

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Pure Speed: Time trialling on Rene Herse tires

With all the emphasis on gravel and less-than-smooth backroads, it’s easy to forget the joys of pure speed as you glide over smooth pavement. And perhaps nothing is more about speed than triathlons. Few people know that both BQ team rider Mark and I did triathlons way back in the early 1990s…

So when we learned that Quentin Kurc-Boucau placed 14th in the Cozumel Ironman in Mexico on Rene Herse Chinook Pass tires, we were curious to find out more about his tire choice and his experiences. Earlier this week, I caught up with Quentin (QKB) and chatted about his sport. Continue Reading →

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Committed to Diversity

There is much that needs to change in our world until all humans are treated equal, have equal opportunities, and feel equally welcome. We each must do our part to make it happen!

At Rene Herse Cycles and Bicycle Quarterly, we are committed to diversity. We believe that great stories exist everywhere, and we are confident that our readers want to read about interesting people, rides and stories, without regard to skin color, ethnicity or nationality. In the future, we will seek out more stories from voices that tend to be underrepresented in the cycling world. We will all be inspired and enriched by the results!

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People who inspire us: Nelson Vails

One of the highlights of last year’s North American Handmade Bicycle Show was meeting Nelson Vails. I saw him walking by, and I thought: “That is Nelson Vails! I’ve got to shake his hand!” We ran after him… He turned out to be a most charming gentleman. Natsuko was surprised that Vails speaks Japanese: Few people know that he spent many years in Japan as a Keirin racer after winning the silver medal in the track sprint at the 1984 Olympic Games. Continue Reading →

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People who inspire us: Rachel Henry

Rachel Henry (right) loves her Jo Routens bike. When Natsuko and I visited them for a story about her husband Raymond, the historian of French cyclotouring and long-time Bicycle Quarterly contributor, the two accompanied us out of town on the spur of a moment.

Rachel prefers contemplative cyclotouring, but she’s a competitive gardener: She and Raymond each have their own vegetable gardens, and Rachel’s tends to grow better! She also serves on the city council of their home town in Provence. And yes, that’s Mont Ventoux in the background. Can’t wait to see them again!

The photo above appeared in our story about French bicycle collectors in Bicycle Quarterly 65.

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People who inspire us: JaBig

Now is a good time to think about the people who’ve inspired us. It’s a good time to show that cycling can be welcoming of non-whites. It’s a good time to listen to other voices. They have good stories to tell!

JaBig is a DJ from Montréal in Canada. He first came to our attention when he rode his fixed-gear across Canada. His recent project was even more ambitious: Last year, he embarked on a round-the-world trip to benefit World Bicycle Relief. We enjoyed his updates as he started in London and made his way across Europe. Covid-19 forced him to return to Canada. He is one of the funniest, most positive humans we’ve met, and his observations about cycling, life and music are always inspiring and thought-provoking. Follow him on Instagram @jabig!

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People who inspire us: Eritrean Road Racers

Now is a good time to think about the people who’ve inspired us. It’s a good time to show that cycling can be welcoming of non-whites. It’s a good time to listen to other voices. They have good stories to tell!

Eritrea has a vibrant cycling scene, ever since Ghebremariam Ghebru won the country’s first road race against the Italian colonials in 1937. In the following years, cycling became almost a substitute for religion. To the present day, races are organized in Asmara almost every weekend. Perhaps the most famous Ertriean racer is Daniel Teklehaimanot (right) who wore the polka-dot jersey of the best climber in the Tour de France in 2015.

The photo shows BQ adventurers Toni, Luigi and Thilo with Eritrean pro racers Metkel Eyob and Daniel Teklehaimanot. Gregor Mahringer told the story of their bikepacking adventure in Bicycle Quarterly 68.

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People who inspire us: the Bruce family

Now is a good time to think about the people who’ve inspired us. It’s a good time to show that cycling can be welcoming of non-whites. It’s a good time to listen to other voices. They have good stories to tell!

The Bruce family from Chicago were good friends (and customers) of the Herse family. The entire family and some friends came to France in the 1960s and rode to Lourdes. Above they are shown at the finish of their long tour. All had Rene Herse bikes. Lyli Herse recalled: “They were doctors, and their four children all had bikes from us, too.” The Bruces invited Lyli to Chicago, where they took her photo on the shores of Lake Michigan.

René Herse had many American customers during the 1960s, but it was the Bruce family that was featured in an advertising photo with the caption: “A beautiful American family on the road to Lourdes.” I’ll dig up that advertisement (as well as the photo of Lyli in Chicago) and share them at a later date.

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A Small Thing: BQ Fund Drive to benefit Black Lives Matter

We want to do more than just say nice words. We want to help make change that is real and lasting. With that intent, we’re renewing the tradition of Bicycle Quarterly fund drives to address urgent needs. For 24 hours, from 0:00 on June 2 until 24:00 (Pacific Time) on June 3, 2020, we’re donating $ 36 for each Bicycle Quarterly subscription to Black Lives Matter. Continue Reading →

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George Floyd, Christian Cooper, Ahmaud Arbery and the Couple on the Train

Last year, on the train to Sacramento, we met a wonderful black couple in the dining car. They had gone to Seattle to celebrate their wedding anniversary. They had met when they were part of the civil rights movement in the South. They moved to the West Coast, because, as her husband explained about his wife: “She has a strong sense of justice. She’d have got killed if we had stayed.”

We have to remember that the suffering, the injustice, the racism continue. We have to stand against racism in all its forms, not just today, but tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. If we change our thinking and our behavior, it will change the world.
—Natsuko & Jan

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Rene Herse x Velocio Ultralight Jersey

We’re excited about our new jerseys. For almost two years, we’ve been looking for the perfect jersey. We didn’t just want to get some print-on-demand jerseys, but we wanted a jersey that offers the best performance and quality, as well as responsible manufacture.

The Rene Herse x Velocio Ultralight jersey is a collaboration between our two companies. The jersey really lives up to its name: At 111 g (Men’s Medium), it’s probably the lightest jersey out there. And light weight isn’t its only remarkable feature. Continue Reading →

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Paris during the Lockdown: Elisabeth’s Story

In this series, we’re sharing the Covid-19 experiences of friends and contributors from around the world. It seems that everybody in France (and beyond) knows Elisabeth as an incredible long-distance cyclist. I’ve ridden with her in the Concours de Machines, met her at Paris-Brest-Paris, and marveled at her adventures on Instagram (@elyasmina75). She lived through the lockdown in the center of Paris. Translated from French.
—Jan Continue Reading →

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1952 Rene Herse – Ancestor of Our All-Road Bikes

It’s hard to believe that it was 20 years ago when I first got to experience a 650B all-road bike. The bike in question was a 1952 René Herse Randonneuse. I had been curious about the bikes from the great French constructeurs, but there weren’t many around. And those who collected them treated them as art objects rather than performance bikes to enjoy on the road.

Then I rode my first Paris-Brest-Paris in 1999. At the finish, I met the late Bernard Déon, the historian of PBP, and bought his book about the incredible ride I had just completed. And there I read that riders like Roger Baumann had ridden René Herses through wind and rain in the 1950s, completing the 1200 hilly kilometers (750 miles) in 50 hours or less. As a first-time PBP rider, speeds like those seemed impossible – and they weren’t far behind the fastest riders in modern PBPs.

So when the opportunity came a few months later to sample one of these mid-century bikes, I leaped at it immediately. Continue Reading →

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Covid-19 Experiences: Donalrey in New York City

The first Covid-19 case in the United States was detected near us here in Seattle in mid-January. Back then, we didn’t imagine that this would turn into such a difficult situation. The entire world has been affected. As we’ve stayed in touch with our friends and Bicycle Quarterly contributors in some of the most affected regions, we’ve been encouraged by their resilience. In this series, I’ll share some of their experiences.

I caught up with Donalrey Nieva from New York City. He and his partner Karen Yung photographed and wrote the cover story in the current Bicycle Quarterly.
—Natsuko Continue Reading →

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Shipping and Tracking during a Pandemic

Quite a few customers are asking why their orders aren’t showing up in the tracking information on our web site, why they haven’t received the Spring Bicycle Quarterly yet, and other shipping-related questions. We’re very sorry about these things, because we can’t do anything about them right now. They are out of our control.

One of the consequences of Covid-19 is that there are very few airplanes flying right now. This means that there is much less capacity for airmail, and shipping takes longer. We just learned that many shipments to Europe are going by boat these days – which seems to include the Spring edition of Bicycle Quarterly for readers in France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium and a few other European countries. Continue Reading →

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Live Talk on Bikepacking.com with Lael, Neil and Jan

If you missed yesterday’s live talk on Bikepacking.com, it’s now uploaded to their channel – click above to view it. It was a fun conversation with two Tour Divide racers, Lael Wilcox and moderator Neil Beltchenko, about what they want in a tire, how we’re developing tires, and how we’ve incorporated Lael’s ideas into our new Fleecer Ridge 700C x 55 mm bikepacking/gravel/adventure tire. Enjoy!

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Fleecer Ridge and Noise Cancellation

We’ve got the new Fleecer Ridge 700C x 55 bikepacking/gravel/all-round tires in stock now. They come in the Standard, Extralight, Endurance and Endurance Plus casings. This means you can get the volume and groundbreaking tread pattern – more of that in a moment – with a full range of casings. At one end of the spectrum is our Extralight, the most supple casing you’ll find anywhere (except on FMB tubulars). At the other extreme is the Endurance Plus, key ingredient to one of the toughest gravel/all-road tires in the world. And in between you have the wonderfully supple Standard casing and the strong-but-ultrafast Endurance.

There’s more to the Fleecer Ridge than meets the eye: They are the world’s first bicycle tires to use noise cancellation. The knobs are arranged so that the noise from one knob hitting the ground has a frequency that overlaps the frequency created by the next knob. The frequencies cancel each other partially to make the Fleecer Ridge much quieter than you’d ever expect a knobby to be. Arranging the knobs so they cancel their own noise is such a new idea that we’ve filed a patent on this feature. Continue Reading →

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Back in Stock and New Fenders

Let’s start with the most exciting part first: We’ve got new 75 mm-wide fenders, both in 650B and 26″ versions to fit comfortably over our widest tires. They’re made from a thicker aluminum for extra strength, so it’s well-suited for bikes with knobby tires which can pick up sticks and rocks that risk collapsing less-strong fenders. (Of course, no fenders are totally fool-proof – always use good judgment and caution when riding off-pavement.)

At 75 mm wide, our H98 fender works well with mountain bike and One-By drivetrains with a wider chainline. If you use a road drivetrain, you’ll either need to indent your fender to clear the chain in the smallest gears – you’ll need about 6 mm clearance – or can run our narrower H80 fenders that have the same radius, but less coverage on the sides of the tire. Continue Reading →

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All tires are back in stock

Most of our customers considers their Rene Herse tires ‘essentials’ – components they need to keep riding. Knowing this, we work hard to keep all models in stock at all times. Sometimes there are unforeseen fluctuations in demand, delays in production and/or shipping, and a model or two may be out of stock.

We just received another shipment, and all tires are back in stock. Thank you for your patience!

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Face Masks Are Back

When we offered our face masks at our cost – and the option to donate them to front-line workers at bike shops – the entire production run was spoken for within just a few hours. Clearly, our customers need masks for their errands and also for their rides when the country reopens. It will be nice stop along the way again during our rides… Continue Reading →

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Our Suppliers

We’re glad to report that all our suppliers are doing well, considering the current circumstances. Production has slowed at some factories, there may be some shortages of products in the future, but the most important thing is that all the people we work with remain healthy. Our relationships with our suppliers are essential to what we do: You can’t make the world’s best parts without a network of the world’s best suppliers. Continue Reading →

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Lael Wilcox: What Makes a Great Bikepacking Tire?

Long distance bikepacking is all about making equipment compromises. Generally speaking, for me, bikepacking is multi-day dirt-road riding and carrying what I need along the way. Road surfaces, conditions, and weather are ever-changing— that’s part of the adventure. When setting out for a tour, I select equipment based on what will be the most fun or make me the happiest for the trip, or simply what I have at hand that’s ready to go. When setting out for a race, I choose what will make me the fastest over time. There are a lot of different elements that factor into the time it takes to cover an immense distance, like speed, efficiency, time on the bike and comfort. Maybe the easiest way for me to dive into these aspects is through specific illustration. I’ll use the it as an example. 

The Tour Divide is a 2,750 mile (4,425 km) self-supported mountain bike race based on Adventure Cycling Association’s Great Divide Mountain Bike Route that travels through the Rockies from Banff, Alberta, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico on the Mexican border. It follows the continental divide as closely as possible, on forest service roads with over 200,000 feet (60,000 m) of climbing along the way.  Continue Reading →

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Round 2 of DIY Gravel

Today would have been the Belgian Waffle Ride in California – which means that Round 2 of Ted King’s DIY Gravel is starting. We’ve got until next Sunday to do our own version of this iconic ride, which offers three versions:

  • Waffle is 138-miles, 53 off-road and nearly 12,000 feet of climbing
  • Wafer is 77.6-miles, 31 off-road miles and 5,600 feet of climbing
  • Wanna is 40-miles, 6 off-road miles, 3,500 ft of climbing

Which will you choose, and where will you go? I’ve had a lot of fun with Round 1, now I’m looking forward to Round 2.

Click here for more on DIY Gravel.

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DIY Gravel #1: Rasputitsa in Washington

When Ted King floated the idea of DIY Gravel, I was intrigued: For each gravel race that’s cancelled, he challenges everybody to ride a similar distance – and elevation gain, if possible – near home and solo, within one week of the original event date. There’s a Strava group and even some prizes to win.

I like the idea of envisioning these courses here in Washington. First on the list was Rasputitsa. Named with the Russian word for ‘Mud Season,’ when roads become difficult to impassable, Rasputitsa coincides with the snow melt in Vermont. Ted King rode the actual course a week ago as he launched DIY Gravel. Continue Reading →

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Join Ted King for DIY Gravel

All of us are figuring out how we can resume our lives safely and responsibly. How can we ride our bikes? Does it make sense to train when races and events are postponed or cancelled? How can we enjoy the community that cycling brings us? I caught up with gravel racer Ted King and asked him about life and cycling in these times.

JH: As the ‘King of Gravel,’ how have you been dealing with the current global scenario? How does riding fit into your schedule these days?

TK: Cycling is an enormous part of my life, but my cycling life doesn’t revolve exclusively around racing. 2020 is already a year that’s completely different from any in the past, because Laura and I are now a family of three, with little baby Hazel as part of the mix. We had decided to limit some of the smaller races that I typically jump into and focus on our family and the bigger events of the year. Continue Reading →

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Thank you!

This post is to say ‘Thank you!’

It’s no secret that times are difficult. The news are not encouraging. Businesses everywhere are struggling, and we’re not exempt.

We appreciate your orders at all times, but now they are doubly important. As we take turns working in our empty office and warehouse, we’re encouraged by the nice notes that you leave in the ‘Comments’ field of your orders.

We’ve noticed that more than usual, you renew your Bicycle Quarterly subscriptions for two or three years. We appreciate the vote of confidence – yes, we plan to keep publishing for much longer than that! – and support. Many have given gift subscriptions to friends. Hopefully, the magazine will brighten their day during these shelter-at-home times.

Our customers – you – are our community. We appreciate your encouragement. We’ll continue to work hard to earn your trust and support. We’ll get through this difficult time together. Thank you!

—Jan & Natsuko

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What We Ride (Part 4): The Mule

In this mini-series, we look at the bikes of the BQ Team. These are the bikes we bought with our own money and/or built with our own hands. These are the bikes we ride most often, because we feel they work best for the rides we do. And – most importantly – they are the most fun to ride.

When I first went to Japan six years ago, I realized I needed a Rinko bike, so I could travel by train to the great routes that traverse the Japanese mountains. As it happens so often, the project was delayed until the last moment. In the end, the entire bike was built in ten days. I built the frame under Hahn’s supervision. He insisted that I miter all the tubes by hand, rather than using a milling machine. It was a great learning experience, and it led to many framebuilding parts in the Rene Herse program that make it easier to build a bike like this – like the pre-mitered centerpull braze-ons that fit perfectly on the Kaisei ‘Toei Special’ fork blades. Continue Reading →

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What We Ride (Part 3): Steve’s Frek

This mini-series shows the bikes of the Bicycle Quarterly Team. These are the bikes we’ve bought with our own money and/or built with our own hands. They aren’t show queens, because we ride them hard. They’ve proven themselves over many thousands of miles on the – often quite rough – mixed-surface roads of the Cascade Mountains.

The Frek may be the most famous bike here. After Steve wrote up his story of converting a 1982 Trek 614 into a 650B randonneur bike for Bicycle Quarterly, many riders followed his lead and converted similar bikes. Fortunately, there are plenty of 1980s Treks to supply this new demand! Continue Reading →

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Covid-19 Petition: Thank you!

Today, we delivered 1674 signatures to the National Governors’ Association, as well as to each state’s governor, urging them to develop strategies for the time after the current lockdowns. We all want to return to our normal lives – as much as possible – but this requires keeping the virus from flaring up again as soon as the current restrictions are eased. We don’t want to see a second wave that is as bad (or worse) than the first one we are experiencing right now. Continue Reading →

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Weekend BQ Team Ride (socially distant)

Last weekend, the BQ Team went on one of our typical rides: A 100-mile (160 km) romp through the Cascade foothills on familiar roads. Of course, we didn’t ride as a group – we’ve given that up for more than a month now, even before the official social distancing guidelines went into effect here in Washington State. We realized that even though riding side-by-side might be safe, we couldn’t be sure. And most of all, it would send the wrong message to others – that somehow, riding in groups was still OK. So we’re doing our team rides solo. Here’s how we rode last weekend:

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Three more days: BQ 8-packs and R Herse book Special

There are three more days left to order reading materials at our special discount. Pick your own 8-pack of Bicycle Quarterly past editions or select the ‘Surprise Me!’ option with the BQ Team’s favorites, plus one extra (for a total of 9 magazines).

Read up on the ground-breaking technical research that ushered in the ‘wide-tire revolution.’ Continue Reading →

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Covid-19 after the lockdowns end: How to make our world safe again?

This is a post that we’d rather not write. We want this blog to focus on cycling, but we feel that urgent action is needed. This is not a feel-good measure, and it may negatively impact our business, but that is not the question we must ask ourselves. When people are dying, when health care workers are risking their lives to save them, we have a responsibility to speak out. We want to thank Donalrey Nieva (@donalrey) for his haunting photos from New York City that illustrate what we’ve lost, but also what we still have.
—Natsuko & Jan

Social Distancing is working!

Today, the ‘Stay-at-Home’ orders in Washington State are going into their third week. Infections seem to be plateauing, and our governor has even been able to return some ventilators to the National Stockpile. Those are the good news, and we are grateful for them. Continue Reading →

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What We Ride (Part 2): 333fab Titanium Randonneur

In this mini-series, we’re looking at the bikes that the BQ Team rides. These are the bikes we’ve bought with our own money (or built with our own hands). These are the bikes we ride most of the time, whether we’re heading for a quick 2-hour spin or a multi-day adventure in the Cascade Mountains. These are the bikes we think work best for us and our style of riding.

Ryan’s custom titanium bike was built by 333fab as a modern interpretation of a randonneur bike. Like the rest of the team, Ryan’s bike rolls on the 650B x 42 mm tires, it’s got aluminum fenders, generator lighting and compact cranks. That is where the similarities end: Ryan’s bike is a reminder that there are many different ways to build a fast long-distance bike. Continue Reading →

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BQ 8-packs and Rene Herse Book for $50

Everybody needs a good read right now! We all know what to do to keep ourselves and others safe. We all know what is going on in the world. There is a time when it’s important to turn off our screens, make a cup of tea, and enjoy a good read.

To supply you with reading material, we’re offering a big discount on our most popular literature. For a limited time, you can order 8- and 9-packs of Bicycle Quarterly and/or our 424-page book ‘Rene Herse • The Bikes • The Builder • The Riders,’ for $ 50 each. Either will give you many hours of reading enjoyment.

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What We Ride (Part 1): Mark’s 6-Hands

Editor’s Note: We’ve been thinking about our role in the response to Covid-19. Here is what we can do: If there is a way we can positively influence the situation – like advocating social distancing and wearing face masks before these practices had widespread support – it’s our responsibility do so. If we can do something to help directly, we will also act: We are working with our suppliers to make masks. And we also realize that the relentless (and mostly bad) news is taking a toll. One thing we can do is inspire our readers. We’ll try to remind you (and ourselves) that there is a beautiful world out there, waiting to be explored. We’re all in this together – let’s stay strong and positive!

And with that, we’ll start a mini-series of posts about the bikes of the BQ Team. We all love testing the latest wonder machines, the featherweight carbon bikes and the gleaming customs straight from NAHBS, but these are the bikes we’ve bought with our own money (or built with our own hands). These are the bikes we ride when we head out, whether it’s a fast spin around the North End of Lake Washington or a multi-day adventure to explore the forgotten passes of the Cascade Mountains. We ride these bikes because they work best for us. Continue Reading →

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Calling for some real innovation!

April 1, 2020: This is the time of year when we take a break from the daily news and look at areas where real progress is possible in bicycle design. Forget marginal gains – today we’re looking for revolutionary ideas!

The industry likes to crow about disc brakes and carbon frames, but when you really think about it, bikes have not evolved much at all since the 1890s. The very first Paris-Brest-Paris was won on a bike similar to the Humber above, and yet most of the Humber’s features have been carried over almost unchanged to the latest ‘high-tech wonders’! Continue Reading →

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Everybody needs a good read now!

Sometimes, it’s good to take a break from the news, turn off our screens, and immerse ourselves in a good read. Now this need is more urgent than ever, and so we’re preparing a second mailing of the new Bicycle Quarterly this week – sooner than originally planned.

Before you even open the Spring 2020 BQ, you’ll be amazed by an amazing bicycle tour of the Peruvian Andes on the cover. Karen Yung’s words and Donalrey Nieva’s stunning photos take you to remote roads in that far-away place – a perfect way to keep our dreams alive.

Equally inspiring is Paulette Porthault’s incredible life story. An active cyclist for 70 years, she rode for the great constructeurs Barra, Narcisse, Herse and Routens. She won the Poly de Chanteloup hillclimb race during the war. And she never stopped smiling!

Those are just two of the great stories in this exciting edition. Click here to subscribe today, and we’ll dispatch your copy of this exciting edition without delay. Thank you!

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Covid-19 Response: Making Face Masks

In contradicting what we’ve been taught until now – that face masks are not useful – I fully expect this post to be controversial. But too much is at stake, so please read on with an open mind.

The good news from Seattle is that our current lockdown seems to be working. New infections appear to be leveling off. It’s too early to tell whether this will last, but it’s encouraging: We aren’t powerless. We can change the trajectory of this pandemic. Unfortunately, the situation is more difficult in many places, and our thoughts go out to all who are affected. It’s a scary time! Continue Reading →

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Keeping our employees safe

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Yesterday, Washington State finally issued an order for everybody to stay at home to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. It’s something most of us wanted to see much sooner, and we’ve been acting for several weeks as if it had been in place already.

Bicycle repair facilities and companies who supply them – which includes Rene Herse Cycles – are exempt from the shut-down, so we’ll continue to operate. However, that does not mean we’ll act irresponsibly. There is too much at stake here, both for our employees and the community at large.

To keep everybody safe, we have adjusted our work schedules so that no two employees work at the same time in our office or warehouse. None of our equipment and tools are shared any longer. We’ve even split up our bathrooms. Basically, this means that our employees are as safe at work as they would be at home.

All these changes mean that our operations have become more complicated and time-consuming. Some things are barely affected. We are still shipping orders and producing Bicycle Quarterly as before. We’re still offering warranty support and processing returns as long as we can receive mail. Even in these difficult times, we continue to stand 100% behind everything we sell.

Other things are becoming more difficult. Product development has slowed. Shipments from suppliers are held up, so some things may be out of stock soon. And we cannot offer individual tech support any longer, because this requires in-person communication at the office to find accurate and useful answers.

This means that we’re no longer able to respond to customer service emails – except those submitted via our Returns and Warranty forms. And please don’t try to send us your questions via Instagram, Facebook or the Letters-to-the-Editor page on the Bicycle Quarterly web site. It’s simply not possible to respond and maintain a safe working environment.

That doesn’t mean you are left out in the cold when it comes to tech support for our products. We’ve expanded the support pages on our web site, so that they cover most common – and many uncommon – questions. You’ll find illustrated step-by-step instructions, frequently asked questions, tips and links to blog posts. Use the ‘Support’ tab in our main menu (above) to get started.

We hope you’ll find these resources useful. And we appreciate your understanding while we continue to adjust to this extraordinary situation. Thank you, and please be careful and safe!

Top photo: Technical inspection at the 1947 Concours de Machines technical trials (Rene Herse Archives).

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Rene Herse Sample Sale

Let’s face it: Life isn’t the same as it was just two weeks ago. We’re all in this together, and we’ve been encouraged how everybody has been pulling together to face this challenge.

At Rene Herse Cycles, we’ve thought about what we could do to help. Most of us still ride our bikes – solo – for transportation, exercise, and to keep our bodies and spirits healthy. Most of us still need bike parts…

We have a sizable stash of parts that haven’t been used, but that we don’t want to sell as brand-new, either. These are parts that we’ve used for photo shoots or for testing tire fit on rims. Some are prototypes that don’t have the right stickers – we commission the molds first and make a small run of tires for testing, long before the new stickers are finalized. We always make more prototypes than we need for the actual testing, just in case.

Usually, we keep these components for our own bikes, but we’re now offering them to everybody in our Sample Sale.

Update 3/25: The Sample Sale has ended. Thank you. Continue Reading →

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We’re open and staying safe

Many customers and readers have asked and worried about us. This post is to reassure everybody that we’re doing fine at Rene Herse Cycles. For the time being, Seattle is relying on everybody’s best efforts of social distancing and staying home, and there is no mandatory lockdown. Fortunately, people are taking it seriously. I went for a walk today and saw a couple talk to the owner of a classic car – while keeping a distance of 8 feet.

At Rene Herse Cycles, we’ve instated policies to ensure the safety of our employees and others in our community. Where possible, our team is telecommuting. The other employees have staggered their shifts, so there is minimal contact. It’s a bit lonely to be working alone in the office and warehouse, but it’s the best way right now.

We appreciate your support in these difficult times. Thank you! Continue Reading →

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FMB Tubulars

Even in these troubled times, most of us continue to ride our bikes, at least here in North America. We’ve been encouraged that even during the ‘shelter-in-place’ in the San Francisco Bay Area, solo bike rides continue to be permitted.

Over the last year, we’ve worked on re-introducing FMB tubulars to the North American market. FMB tubulars perfectly complement to our Rene Herse clinchers. They feature similar no-nonsense tread patterns for road, dirt and mud. FMB’s three casings all offer supple performance, but they vary in their degrees of sidewall protection. Continue Reading →

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Spring 2020 Bicycle Quarterly

It’s always exciting when a new Bicycle Quarterly goes to print. After months of work, we finally see the magazine take shape on paper, and soon our readers will enjoy their copies. We’re doubly excited about the Spring 2020 edition with its mix of engaging stories. Karen Yung reports from a bikepacking trip to the Andes of Peru – the cover shows one of her fellow adventuresses. Continue Reading →

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Ted King’s Tips for Choosing Gravel Tires

Editor’s Note: ‘Gravel’ means different things in different regions, from the smooth dirt roads of Vermont to the Flint Hills of Kansas. Few riders have as much experience riding and racing all over the world as Ted King. Here is how the ‘King of Gravel’ chooses his tires.

It’s only in the relatively recent rearview mirror that we see cyclists steering their frankenbikes off the beaten path. “Gravel” as a name wasn’t a genre of riding yet; this was merely riding a bike on pavement and then riding a bike off pavement. Most riders were on two-wheeled amalgamated collections of misfit parts, trying to create what did not yet exist: Riders took the best parts of road and mountain bikes and combined them in a single bike. That was the start of “gravel” as we know it, and it’s quickly becoming something of a rarity in this day and age.

With the burgeoning support of the entire cycling industry behind gravel, and with a hyper-focus on components designed specifically for every style of gravel riding, my inbox is continually filled with questions about my choice for bike parts. Specifically, questions revolving around where the rubber meets the (off) road are the most common. So in an attempt to take a proactive approach, I’m excited to offer Ted’s Tips for Choosing Tires. Continue Reading →

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Memories of Summer: Lake Bessemer

As last summer’s 1200 km Paris-Brest-Paris was approaching, my training went into high gear. That meant hill intervals and speedwork, but also occasional longer rides to maintain my endurance – and have fun!

When Mark and Steve suggested a weekend ride up the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River, we came up with an idea: They would take the bus to Mount Si, a popular hiking destination. I’d ride out there and meet them. I decided to add the climb to Lake Bessemer for some extra training. Continue Reading →

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Enve and Zipp hookless rims and Rene Herse tires

Rene Herse tires are safe to use on hookless rims from Enve and Zipp – even when mounted tubeless (for tubeless-compatible tires). Over the last year, we’ve worked with the engineers from both companies to ensure the full compatibility of our tires with their rims.

Tubeless tires are an emerging technology. They’ve been around for decades on cars and motorcycles, and they’ve taken over mountain biking in a storm, too. These are all relatively stiff tires that run at relatively low pressures.

Adapting the technology to road, all-road and gravel bikes has posed special challenges. The supple high-performance tires we love have less casing stiffness, and they run at somewhat higher pressures. (Few cars, motorcycles and mountain bikes exceed 2.5 bar/35 psi.) Both factors combine to create much greater forces at the tire/rim interface than on other vehicles. Continue Reading →

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My PBP Bike: The Frame

When I asked readers which part of my bike for last summer’s Paris-Brest-Paris they wanted to hear more about, the answer was: “Everything.” So we’ll make a series of short posts about the parts of the bike. I’ve already talked about the centerpull brakes here. Today, let’s look at the frame.

It’s no secret that I love my titanium Firefly. I’ve also enjoyed some great rides on carbon bikes. I wanted a very lightweight bike, and I seriously thought about getting a titanium frame or adapting a carbon U.P.P.E.R. to create a randonneur bike. In the end, I opted for steel because it’s easier to fabricate a frame that accepts all the things I need for adventures like Paris-Brest-Paris: fenders, lights, a rack, a pump… Continue Reading →

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A Winter Ride

When the forecast predicted a rare break in Seattle’s relentless rain, Ryan Hamilton and I quickly decided: “Let’s head to Index!” It’s a favorite winter ride that spears deep into the Cascade Mountains, but stays in the valleys (mostly), so it remains rideable while the high passes are covered with snow.

This time, we added a challenge: “Let’s try to get back before dark!” We knew this was ambitious for a 150-mile (240 km) ride with more than 6,000 ft (1,830 m) of elevation gain. Winter days in the Pacific Northwest aren’t exactly long, and we didn’t want to leave too early in case there was ice on the roads. We met at 7, just before dawn, and rode out of Seattle at a good clip. Continue Reading →

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12-Speed Rene Herse Cranks

We’re excited to announce that our ramped-and-pinned chainrings are 12-speed compatible. We knew that 12-speed was coming when we developed our 11-speed rings, so we tried to anticipate the requirements, so that our chainrings would be compatible with 12-speed as well.

Now we’ve completed our testing, and we’re happy to report that all our ’11-speed’ chainrings also work well with 12-speed chains. Continue Reading →

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Lael Wilcox: The Mount Lemmon Challenge

I love the scenes in movies and the chapters in books when the hero is training and developing and working to become great; when you see that drive and ambition to face sacrifices and to improve. You see cold early mornings and sweat and pain become results. I want to live that story. I want to climb that mountain.

The beauty of climbing is that you won’t just have one experience. There will be fierce moments of riding into a driving wind, of your lungs flaming and your quads disintegrating to cinders, and then there will be absolute calm. The longer you stay out there, the more you’ll experience. Continue Reading →

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David’s Bike for Paris-Brest-Paris

When David Wilcox signed up to ride in last summer’s Paris-Brest-Paris 1200 km (750-mile) brevet, he wondered about which of his bikes – he has quite a stable! – would be best for this long ride. Comfort is paramount if you’re going to spend 45+ hours in the saddle, but so is speed: The faster you go, the more you can rest without having to worry about time limit of 80 hours.* Continue Reading →

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James Bay Descent – The Movie

When Ted King, Ryan Atkins, Eric Batty and Buck Miller rode more than 600 km in northern Ontario last winter, it was a real adventure – and they raised money for a local charity. We were happy to be involved in a small way – we supplied the entire team with Berthoud saddles, so they’d be comfortable during their long days on the road.

Now Eric has made a short movie about their incredible ride. Enjoy!

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UD Racks for (almost) every bike

Handlebar bags are one of the best places to carry luggage on your bike. Right in front of you, the contents are easy to reach. A handlebar bag doesn’t increase your frontal area, so it’s aero, and it doesn’t get caught on obstacles when you ride through tight spaces. Handlebar bags have more capacity than most other bikepacking bags, and there’s none of the ‘tail wagging the dog’ effect you get with rear bags, especially when climbing out of the saddle.

Handlebar bags work best when they are supported by a rack. That way, the bag sits as low as possible and doesn’t swing from side to side – both important for good handling. Ideally, your bike’s front-end geometry is designed to accommodate the extra load, but many riders enjoy their handlebar bags on a wide variety of bikes. Continue Reading →

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Myth 19: 700C Wheels Are Faster

When we started this series to celebrate Bicycle Quarterly’s 15th anniversary, we thought we’d eventually run out of myths. But it seems that new ones are created as fast as we can debunk old ones. The latest is “700C wheels roll faster than 650B.”

This is stated with the same certitude as the old “narrow tires are faster” – and it’s just as wrong. Simply put, there is no evidence that 700C wheels roll faster than 650B (or 26″), and much data to show that they all roll at essentially the same speed. Continue Reading →

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Predictions for the 2020s

Happy New Year and welcome to a new decade, the 2020s!

Ten years ago (above), Bicycle Quarterly predicted that wide tires would become commonplace, that all-road bikes would replace racing bikes as the most popular genre, and that riders would soon venture off the beaten path and onto gravel. All that seemed unlikely in 2010, and we had to wait more than half-way through the decade for these predictions to become reality.

Now we’re heading into the 2020s, and I’m thinking about what the next 10 years will bring. As in 2010, I don’t claim to be able to see into the future; it’s just what makes sense… Continue Reading →

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Bicycle Quarterly Past Editions

The most common comment we get from Bicycle Quarterly readers is “I wish the magazine came out more often.” Publishing more often would be nice, but it’s not possible: It takes three months to create each edition. With more than 100 pages of stories – all original contents and hardly any ads – each Bicycle Quarterly is a small book. Four books a year is all our small team can publish. Continue Reading →

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Rethinking Packaging

Since we’ve started Rene Herse Cycles in 2011, we’ve been working on reducing our environmental impact. We were among the first to use custom-designed cardboard boxes with inserts that hold our cranks securely. That has been part of our commitment to reduce our impact – while making sure that our parts reach our customers all over the world in perfect condition. Continue Reading →

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Jikkoku Pass in Autumn: Day 2

In the last post, I talked about riding on the old road across Jikkoku Pass.

Where to go on the second day? We haven’t quite decided yet. The typhoon is getting closer, and we don’t know what the weather will be like. If it’s just raining, it’s OK, but this time, a huge typhoon is forecast, which may make riding in the mountains dangerous because of landslides. We will adjust our plans as the day develops. Continue Reading →

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Jikkoku Pass in Autumn

Usually, October in Japan is a month of good weather, with an occasional typhoon that needs to be considered when planning a cyclotouring trip. But when I visited Japan this autumn, October saw so many typhoons and rain. It’s very unusual.

We did not want to miss the short window of good weather as we planned a cyclotouring trip. Mr. Yo had time off and could join us. We decided to go on a two-day trip together. Where to go? Continue Reading →

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Frank Berto: We will miss you!

Word has just reached us that Frank Berto passed away last Sunday, aged 90. Berto was one of the most inquisitive technical minds in the cycling world and a long-time contributor first to Bicycling magazine and then to Bicycle Quarterly.

An avid cyclist since his childhood in the 1940s, Frank obtained a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 1958. He worked in the oil industry as an instrumentation and oil measurement consultant. On the side, he authored more than 100 technical articles. His book The Dancing Chain traces the history of derailleurs in all its twists and turns.

Frank was one of the first to (re)discover that derailleurs shifted well if the chain gap (distance between cassette cog and upper derailleur pulley) was constant in all gears. He also measured the tire drop of dozens of tires and summarized the results in his famous tire pressure chart that remains the best guidance for inflating your tires to this day. Frank had little time for hero worship, but he appreciated companies like SunTour and the mid-century French derailleur makers who made innovative derailleurs that shifted well.

When I started Bicycle Quarterly 17 years ago, Frank sent his check for a subscription with a note. With typical frankness, he wrote: “I give you two years max. I’ve seen them all come and go, On the Wheel, the Bicycle Trader… In the mean time, I’ll help you as much as I can.” That help included xeroxing articles from his extensive library and reviewing the technical articles we wrote. He was excited when we built on his research and took it to the next step. When BQ published Aldo Ross’ article on the fiendishly complicated Campagnolo Paris-Roubaix derailleur, Frank, the expert on derailleurs, called me and exclaimed: “Finally, I understand how that thing works!”

During our frequent phone conversations, Frank was gruff, yet warm and charming. He was not just a fount of knowledge, but also fun. We owe him a lot! Our condolences go out to Frank’s wife Connie and his family.

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Back in Stock: Maware Bar Tape, Monkey Bananas, Chainstays and more

At Rene Herse Cycles, we know that our customers rely on their bikes – for transportation, for sport and for fun. So we try to keep all our products in stock at all times. Nothing is more frustrating than needing a new tire or part for a big ride and having to hunt around for left-over stocks, because the maker or distributor is out of stock. And yet, it can happen: Demand suddenly increases, or there are delays in manufacturing. And then an item is out of stock. We just received a big shipment from Japan, and our local production right here in Seattle also has caught up, so we’ve got a lot of parts back in stock.

I got many questions about my new bike for this year’s Paris-Brest-Paris. One of the most asked was about the handlebar tape. Maware leather tape is by far my favorite. Made from pigskin, it’s thin, and it wraps smoothly. It’s soft to the touch and has just the right amount of grippiness. Whenever I moved my hands during the long 56-hour ride and felt the luxurious tape, I smiled. It’s one of the little things that make the miles pass quickly. Continue Reading →

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Riding the Un-Ride with Ted King

Today’s Un-Ride, as Ted named it, was a blast. It was wet, it was tough, and it was great. We just rode hard and enjoyed the company of the group. There was no posing for the cameras – and it was too dark for good photos anyhow – but the few pics I managed to snap while keeping my heart rate close to the max probably tell the story just fine.

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Job Opening at Rene Herse Cycles

We’ve got a job opening at Rene Herse Cycles. Are you dreaming of working on beautiful bikes, assembling dazzling cranks and brakes, and chatting about amazing rides all day long? The reality is not quite as glamorous, but we’ve got a good team, good compensation and benefits, plus the potential for long-term, stable employment.

As Operations Assistant, you’d run our warehouse, keep track of inventory, assemble the afore-mentioned cranks and brakes and ship them to our customers, plus update our web site and Bicycle Quarterly subscriber database. It’s a great job for somebody who enjoys doing many tasks and wearing many hats, yet wants stable employment (40 hours/week) with full benefits. Click here for a detailed job description.

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How durable are leather saddles?

How durable are leather saddles? It’s a question we often get with respect to the Berthoud saddles we distribute in North America. Especially now that it’s winter here, and often raining. Will a leather saddle be ruined if it’s ridden in the rain?

The answer is a reassuring ‘No.’ There is only one thing to consider: The underside of the saddle should be protected. If the leather gets completely soaked, the saddle top will lose its shape. Continue Reading →

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This Sunday: Ride Tahuya with Ted King

Just a quick reminder that our Un-Meeting-style ride with the ‘King of Gravel’ is this Sunday. The weather forecast is unseasonably good for Seattle – just a slight chance of rain in the morning. Here are the details:

  • When: Sunday, December 8, 2019
  • Where: Seattle Ferry Terminal, 7:35 a.m. ferry to Bremerton
  • What: 80 miles (130 km), paved and gravel (all-paved option)
  • How: Un-Meeting style (everybody is welcome, but it’s not a group ride)

Route sheet, GPS track and more info are in last week’s post. I look forward to riding with many of you on Sunday!

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Winter 2019 Bicycle Quarterly

Adventures in all their forms are the theme of the Winter 2019 Bicycle Quarterly. Lael Wilcox and Rugile Kaladyte tour Kyrgystan in preparation of the Silk Road Mountain Race. Three friends attempting a new route on the border between France and Italy. Two riders enter The Japanese Odyssey, a ride so challenging that few participants actually finish it. Even our bike test of the new Crust Canti Lightning Bolt turns into an adventure when a storm moves in as we traverse the Cascade Mountains.

The new Bicycle Quarterly is at the printer – below are the first proofs. Tomorrow we’ll finalize the mailing list. Please subscribe or renew today to be among the first to get your BQ. Thank you!

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Blog Transition is Complete

Thank you for your patience last week while we’ve transitioned the blog to the Rene Herse web site. We’ve moved all the old contents – blog posts and comments – to the new site, so everything continues to be available.

If you’ve bookmarked a blog post, the link no longer works. Replace the old web address and date with ‘www.renehersecycles.com,’ and you’ll be able to find your bookmarked posts. Below are the new links to six of our most popular posts:

Make sure you subscribe to our newsletter to get updated when new posts are published. Use the box on the right side. We won’t use your information for anything else, and it’s easy to unsuscribe if you’re no longer interested.

I hope you’ll continue to enjoy this blog!

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Steel Road Bike Book (Japan)

During a recent trip to Japan, we saw a beautiful book about steel road bikes, published by our friends at Bicycle Club magazine. The cover bike may look familiar to Bicycle Quarterly readers – it’s part of a famous Japanese collection that we featured a few years back. Many consider this bike, built by Toshio Kajiwara, the zenith of Japanese framebuilding – simple and understated, but beautifully crafted.

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Golden Age and Competition Bikes out of print

After a remarkable run over 15 years, our first book, The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles, is now out of print. Published in 2005, The Golden Age was at the start of our fascination with the French constructeurs. It made Rene Herse and Alex Singer household names. If cyclists today admire beautiful fender lines and fully integrated bicycles, it’s in part because of this book.

The Golden Age became a best-seller almost overnight, and our first edition sold out quickly. We published a second edition with Rizzoli, which ensured even wider distribution.

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Ride Tahuya with Ted King

Join us on a ride with Ted King, the ‘King of Gravel’! We’ll head to the Tahuya Hills on some beautiful (and hilly) roads. There’ll be plenty of gravel, as well as an all-paved option.

  • When: Sunday, December 8, 2019
  • Where: Seattle Ferry Terminal, 7:35 a.m. ferry to Bremerton
  • What: 80 miles (130 km), paved and gravel (all-paved option)
  • How: Un-Meeting style (everybody is welcome, but it’s not a group ride)

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Our Blog Has Moved

We are excited to move our blog and integrate it seamlessly with our Rene Herse Cycles web site. This will allow us to create even more exciting content. And now we can link directly between blog posts and support pages. This and other changes will improve your experience as you use this resource. If you subscribed to the old blog, your subscription will automatically move here. (You will get a message from WordPress about this.)

Please bookmark the new site. Better yet, click on the ‘Follow Our Blog’ button to receive a short e-mail when a new post goes up. (It’s easy to unsubscribe by clicking the button again.) Thank you!

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Honing Skills in Cyclocross

When winter snow makes the high roads in the Cascade Mountains impassable, we turn to cyclocross. It’s our preferred winter sport – challenging, fun and a great way to hone our skills for the big summer gravel adventures. The skills of ‘cross are less about jumping across barriers – although that is fun, too – and more about learning the feedback from your tires. Being able to feel how much grip you can lean on is a useful skill for gravel riding. When you push your bike to the limit and beyond, you learn what it feels like when the tire is just before the point where it’ll slip. You’ll also learn how to recover when your bike slides. And if you don’t recover, speeds are slow and the mud is soft…

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Endurance Casings for 700C x 38 and 700C x 55

You asked for it… Many customers requested our Barlow Pass with the Endurance casing. It makes sense – 700C x 38 is a versatile size. If your rides are littered with glass, steel wires or goatheads, the Endurance casing is going to be your friend. You get a tire with much of the speed and comfort of our other Rene Herse tires, yet it’s considerably tougher than the Standard or Extralight casings.

The Antelope Hill is another prime candidate for the Endurance casing. Call it 700C x 55 or 29″ x 2.3″ as you wish – it’s a tire for monstercross and mountain bikes that are ridden on gravel roads (and paved ones, too).

Most of the time, the sheer volume of this tire (and associated low pressure) will ward off sidewall cuts and punctures. Yet by their nature, the Antelopes invite you to take them places you wouldn’t go otherwise. And then the extra protection of the Endurance casing can be great reassurance…

These Rene Herse tires are available with Endurance casings:

  • 650B x 48 Juniper Ridge (knobby)
  • 700C x 38 Barlow Pass
  • 700C x 38 Steilacoom (knobby)
  • 700C x 42 Hurricane Ridge (knobby)
  • 700C x 44 Snoqualmie Pass
  • 700C x 55 Antelope Hill

Quantities of the new models are limited for now, until production catches up with demand. Click here for more information.

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Cost Increases = Price Increases

Unlike most posts, this isn’t one that I enjoy writing… Over the past decade, we’ve seen a period of remarkably stable prices. In fact, it’s been more than five years since our prices have changed across the board – and back then, they went down, because the exchange rate to the Japanese Yen had become more favorable.

Things have changed over the last few years. The trade wars have caught the headlines, but they haven’t affected us directly. Our high-quality products are made in Japan, Germany, France, Taiwan and, of course, the United States – not the countries that have had big tariffs levied on them. However, the trade wars have rippled throughout the world, and they affect us as well: The dollar has lost in value, which increases the cost of the parts we make overseas.

Why not make them in the U.S.? We make many parts locally or in the U.S., but for others, there simply is no domestic manufacturer who can make bicycle tires, forged bike parts, and other high-end components.

The cost of raw materials has also increased due to tariffs and other disruptions. This affects everything from aluminum (used on most of our components) and copper (generator hubs) to rubber (tires), and it’s been substantial.

Our components are made in batches, and our suppliers buy their materials in large quantities, so these cost increases haven’t hit us all at once, but as a steady trickle. For a while, we’ve been able to absorb them. At some point, we have to pass them on to our customers. This means that over the next few months, our prices will increase. It won’t be a huge increase, and it won’t affect all our parts. And for the time being, we’re of course still taking orders at the old prices. We want to give our loyal customers a heads up, so it doesn’t come as a surprise. We hope you’ll understand.

Thank you!

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